Monthly Archives: February 2015

VAWA: Violence Against Women Act, the Self-Petitioning Immigration Application

VAWA: Violence Against Women Act, the self-petitioning immigration application


The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) allows certain family members related to U.S. citizens or green card holders to file an immigration petition for themselves after they have suffered abuse from their spouse or family member.

An example scenario is when an immigrant spouse marries a U.S. citizen, and the U.S. citizen then petitions the immigrant spouse for legal status in the United States.  The immigrant spouse then suffers abuse from the U.S. citizen, either physically or psychologically.  The U.S. citizen threatens to cancel the pending immigration petition if the immigrant spouse reports the U.S. citizen to the police.  The Violence Against Women Act allows immigrant spouses in such situations to “self-petition,” that is, to file an immigration petition in the U.S. without the knowledge or participation of the abusive citizen spouse.  


To be eligible for VAWA, a self-petitioning spouse must prove that he or she:

  • Is or was married to a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident (green card holder)
  • Was genuinely married, and did not enter into the marriage for immigration purposes
  • Suffered battery or extreme cruelty by the U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouse
  • Currently resides or has resided with the abusive spouse in the past
  • Is a person of good moral character


As part of the application, the self-petitioning spouse must submit detailed evidence proving the requirements above.  Such evidence can include, but is not limited to, the following:

  • Marriage to U.S. citizen or permanent resident: copy of marriage certificate, copy of birth certificate of spouse, copy of green card or naturalization certificate of spouse
  • Genuine marriage: wedding photos and videos, birth certificates of their children, letters written by friends or family members who have knowledge of the marriage and the relationship
  • Abuse: medical records, police reports, court documents, letters written by people who witnessed the abuse or who witnessed the self-petitioning spouse’s recollection of the abuse
  • Residence with the abusive spouse: lease, rent checks, rent receipts, mortgage documents, utility bills
  • Good moral character: certified letters from county sheriffs or police departments showing clean criminal records, certified county court documents showing no criminal records, letters from friends or family members


If approved, a VAWA petition can grant an immigrant spouse the following benefits:

  • A period of deferred deportation (he or she will not be deported for a period of time)
  • The option to apply for Legal Permanent Residence (green card status) in the United States
  • The option to apply for a work permit so that he or she may legally work in the United States

VAWA applies not only to spouses, but also to abused parents or children of U.S. Citizens and green card holders.  Both men and women can apply for a VAWA petition.  For more details on eligibility and requirements for VAWA, visit the USCIS website.

Remember, VAWA petitions can be submitted without the knowledge or participation of the other spouse or family member.  

If you or anyone you know is in a similar situation, our immigration attorneys would be happy to speak with them about whether VAWA would be an option.   Have them contact us at (815) 207-9570, or (815) 409-8858 to schedule a consultation.


The information on this site is not legal advice.  Retain a licensed attorney before taking any action which affects your legal issues or immigration status, and follow the advice of your retained lawyer.

How to File for Divorce



How to File for Divorce in Illinois

divorce papers gavel

This article will briefly explain the basic process for how to file for divorce in Illinois.  For more detailed explanation and guidance on how to get a divorce, contact a licensed and experienced family law attorney.  For a brief explanation of how the divorce process works, click here.



To begin the Illinois divorce process, a spouse must file a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage.  This is the initial document of the divorce papers which initiates the divorce process in the court system.  There is a filing fee to file for divorce, which can cost around $300 or more depending on the county where the Petition is filed.  This Petition must be filed at the local courthouse in a county where either spouse resides.  The spouse filing the petition is referred to as the “petitioner,” and the other spouse is referred to as the “respondent” in the legal proceedings.



The spouse filing for divorce must take the appropriate steps to ensure that the other spouse is given proper notice that the divorce has been filed.  One common method is to have the Petition “served” on the other spouse.  Service refers to the process where a third party, usually a county sheriff, physically hands the Petition to the other spouse, or to someone who can accept service on behalf of the spouse.  If the spouse cannot be located after multiple attempts at service, the petitioning spouse can ask the court to allow “service by publication.”  Service by publication is a process where notice of the divorce is posted in a local newspaper for a certain period of time.  If the other spouse does not respond or take part in the proceedings, a “default” judgment may be granted, meaning the divorce is granted without any participation by the other spouse.  A default judgment may also be requested if the other spouse has been served and does not respond to the Petition within a certain amount of time.

It is important to note that if a default judgment is granted from service by publication, the judge may not rule on issues of alimony (maintenance)property division, or child support.  The judge might also not rule on issues of child custody.

If the other spouse agrees to participate the divorce, they can file an “appearance” with the court.  An “appearance” is a document signed by a party which tells the court that he or she wishes to participate in the proceedings.  As part of this document, the respondent spouse can state that he or she “waives” proper service, meaning that the case can proceed without him or her being served.


Jurisdiction: Can you file in Illinois?

To obtain a divorce in Illinois, one of the two spouses must have either lived in Illinois or have been stationed under the armed forces in Illinois for 90 days before the filing of the Petition, or for 90 days before the finalization of the divorce.


Grounds for Divorce

In order to obtain a divorce, the petitioning spouse must have a proper reason.  Prior to 2016, Illinois law provided that a spouse must use one of several grounds for divorce to initiate the case.  New changes to Illinois divorce laws in 2016 provide that there is now only one basis for divorce: irreconcilable differences.  It must be proven that irreconcilable differences have caused an irretrievable breakdown in the marriage, that efforts at reconciliation have failed, and future attempts at reconciliation would be impracticable and not in the best interests of the family.  If the spouses are in agreement, they can simply testify before a judge to prove these requirements.  

There is no longer a two-year waiting period to use the grounds of irreconcilable differences.   If both spouses have been living separate and apart for 6 months, irreconcilable differences will be presumed, and the divorce can be finalized. 

After the divorce court proceedings have commenced, and both spouses are participating, a certain series of stages take place, which are described in our article on how the divorce process works in Illinois.  It is important for each spouse to be aware of their rights and responsibilities under Illinois law as part of these proceedings.  If you or someone you know is thinking about filing for divorce in Illinois, have them contact our office today to speak with an experienced attorney.


To schedule a consultation and learn how to get a divorce in Illinois, call an experienced family law attorney serving Will county, Dupage county and Kendall County at (815) 207-9570 or (815) 409-8858.


The information on this site is not legal advice.  Retain an attorney licensed in the state which has jurisdiction over your matter before taking any action which affects your legal issues, legal marital status or custody arrangements, and follow the advice of your retained lawyer.